Sleep may be the key to your teen’s academic success

Sleep may be the key to your teen’s academic success

6c1cf9fb-85d0-4ef9-bf1b-83839d7d97edBelow is an article by Dr. Shahriar Shahzeidi, who leads the pediatric sleep team at the Comprehensive Sleep Care Center. He is board-certified in Pediatrics, Pediatric Pulmonology and is a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Dr. Shahzeidi is a uthority on children and sleep. We welcome you to post this informative article in your next publication.
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 28, 2015 — Is your teenager falling asleep in class or tired during the day? He or she is not alone. A National Sleep Foundation survey of teenagers found that 25% of teens sleep in class at least one time a week. There is a misconception that teens are falling asleep because they are bored, however, teens are falling asleep, particularly in earlier classes, because they are chronically sleep deprived.

The average adolescent needs 8 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night, according to researchers. Most teenagers are getting an hour and a half less sleep or more than they need to be alert. The easy answer would be for teenagers to go to bed earlier, but often that’s not an option. During puberty, teens have a later release of the sleep hormone melatonin, which means they usually don’t feel drowsy until 11 p.m. Studying late at night and using smartphones, computers and other electronics trick the brain into sensing wakeful daylight, exacerbating the problem.

Photo: Flickr/ normalltyrellef

Not getting enough sleep, especially when school start times are early, can impact learning and memory. In a Harvard Medical School and Trent University study on how sleep affects learning, students took a several tests and then slept various lengths of time. Results showed that the brain consolidates and practices what was learned during the day after the students go to sleep. Researchers have found that consolidation happens in two phases of sleep: slow-wave and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.

Dr. Robert Stickgold of Harvard University Medical School, who conducted a series of tests involving visual tasks, hypothesized that the reason the brain needs these kinds of sleep because certain brain chemicals plummet during the first part of the night, and information flows out of the hippocampus (the memory region) and into the cortex. He thinks the brain then distributes the new information into appropriate networks and categories. Inside the brain, proteins strengthen the connections between nerve cells consolidating the new skills learned the day before. Later, during REM, the brain re-enacts the lessons from the previous day and solidifies the newly-made connections through the memory banks. Therefore, in addition to the hours of sleep, quality of sleep would be a crucial factor for consolidation of the learned data. In a study of sleep infradian cycle , REM is happening mostly during early morning hours, therefore waking early morning hours might cut the REM minutes a person could earn during those hours.

There are several health and safety reasons why sleep is so important for your teen. According to a National Sleep Foundation Study, drowsiness or fatigue is the principle cause of at least 100,000 traffic accidents each year. One North Carolina state study found that 55% of all “fall-asleep” crashes were caused by drivers under the age of 25. Parents shouldn’t let sleep deprived adolescents get behind the wheel any more than they would if their kid had been drinking.

Additionally, teenagers do not get enough sleep are more likely to become overweight or obese. This is partly because if teenagers do not have enough sleep, then they will often turn to sweet, energy-rich foods instead.

So what can you do to help your teenage child go to sleep? Here are 10 tips:

1. Stay on schedule

Encourage your teen to keep a regular sleep-wake schedule on weekdays AND weekends. Do not vary the schedule by more than 1 hour.

2. Take a nap

Naps are okay if your teen wants to take one, as long as it is no more than 20 to 30 minutes and only happens in the early afternoon.

3. Get regular exercise

Have your teen exercise 30 to 60 minutes at least four times a week, but make sure it happens earlier in the day. Your teen should avoid exercising within 2 to 3 hours of bedtime because that is when he or she needs to be winding down.

4. Cut down on the caffeine

Limit caffeine intake after 3 p.m., including caffeine-containing products such as iced tea, some clear non -cola pops, energy drinks and chocolates

5. Don’t go to bed hungry

Avoid having a heavy meal an hour or two before bedtime. Make sure the meals your teen does have include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals and bread, rice, pasta, fish and poultry. Make sure he or she has breakfast. Also, avoid fried foods and limit the intake of fats.

6. Avoid alcohol and nicotine
Nicotine is a stimulant and can disturb sleep and your teen should not smoke at all. However, if your teen does smoke, he or she should avoid smoking within an hour or so of bedtime. Alcohol, sleeping pills or other over-the-counter sleep aids may disrupt sleep. See your doctor if your teen is using these products to help with sleep.

7. Establish quiet time

Have your teen set aside up to an hour of quiet time before bed every night. He or she can listen to music, read a book or do something else that helps calm the mind and body. Your teen should avoid any screen time, exercising or heavy studying during this period.

8. Make the bedroom a relaxing environment

Your teen’s bedroom should be quiet, comfortable dark , and if possible, relatively clean, uncluttered and relaxing. The bed should only be used for sleep.

9. Wake up at the same time daily

Just like your teen’s bedtime, his or her wake up time should be about the same every day of the week. It sets the stage for the rest of the day, allowing sleep pressure to build up by late evening and allowing for quicker sleep onset. This will help your teen avoid feeling “jet lagged” all week.

10. Beyond Yawns… Call a pediatric sleep medicine specialist

If your teen has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, snores, breathes through his or her mouth, or is excessively sleepy during the day you might want to get a consultation with a sleep specialist.


Connect with Comprehensive Sleep Care Center:
19441 Golf Vista Plaza, Ste. 140, Lansdowne, VA 20176
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.

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